How I use Pleasure to Manage Anxiety
Today I’m sharing how I use pleasure to manage anxiety. And before we go into that specifically, there are some things I want to talk about to preface this topic.
Firstly, I had this episode idea originally written down as “how pleasure helped heal my anxiety” and I want to talk about why I decided not to say that, and some realizations I had around that wording.
Anxiety is an emotion that we all have, and it is a valid emotion. It is your body telling you that something needs to shift here, like “I’m not okay, I have needs that aren’t being met.” That’s what anxiety is.
Or it’s “I’m stuck in these thought loops that are not serving me.” That’s what anxiety is, and it’s not something to label as “bad”. Which is why I didn’t want to write that I “healed” my anxiety through pleasure, because anxiety is not a “bad” thing to “fix”.
And also anxiety, because it’s a part of this wide, full spectrum of emotions that we get to feel as humans, there’s never going to be a day where you just never feel anxious again. That’s unrealistic, especially with the type of world we live in, where things move so fast and when there’s a lot expected of you.
Especially coming from the perspective of being someone in a female body. There is a lot pushed on us as far as like how we’re supposed to look, how we’re supposed to be able to do all the things and play all these different roles and juggle everything.
And yeah, so a few things there is just normalizing that anxiety is normal. It’s not something to be healed or fixed. Understanding that anxiety is an emotion and that anxiety is a valid emotion. And all of our human emotions are sacred and divine because they’re our bodies, in my opinion, they are our bodies communicating to us.
Emotions are a Discovery into who you are
Emotions are our bodies communicating to us. And yeah, we need to… a thing that I would love to see society at large or the collective do is come to a place where we can make peace with all of the emotions and move away from this thing that’s like “high vibes only” and just seeing things like positivity or calmness or happiness as “good”.
Because when we do that, we run away from emotions like anxiety or like fear or pain. And the more time you take running away from pieces of you that you feel, because those pieces that you feel, that’s like your inner truth.
You know, these things are true. The more you run away from your truth, the more you have these parts of yourself that are not allowed to be loved, firstly by yourself internally.
And then because of that, they’re not allowed to be loved by the people around you because you’re not showing them you’re holding them in. And that just leads to a life of no intimacy and no connection, no alignment.
And so the further we can go into this space of letting things be expressed and giving all of our parts, all of our emotions and sensations and feelings a seat at the table. And you know, doing this internally, first and foremost, the more we can discover who we really are.
And that’s been a huge journey for me. I remember growing up, I would always be very annoyed by people who would say as advice to find friends or find someone to date, I would always get really annoyed at the advice of: “just be yourself.”
Because I’m like,” I don’t know who that is!!” And now what I see what I realize about that is… there were so many emotions and even interests of mine that I was suppressing in order to be a “good girl” in order to be cool.
And like the more you suppress things that are true for you, the further away you get from knowing who you really are. And so making peace with your anxiety is going to be very life changing. Making peace with any emotion is going to be life changing.
Pleasure is not just about sex
So that’s something I wanted to preface. I also wanted to preface that this, this title of this episode is called how pleasure has helped me manage my anxiety. And I just want to make a note that pleasure, usually people will associate pleasure with sexuality for some reason.
And while sexuality, yes, is a part of pleasure, it’s not all that that there is, there’s so much to pleasure. So in this episode, you will hear things like if you are someone who thinks like, oh, like who saw the title was like, oh, she helped me she helps manage her anxiety through sex. This is not what this episode is.
Yes, that is one piece, but there’s a lot more to it than just that. A couple of aspects to pleasure that I mentioned in a previous episode, the last solo episode I released called how to break free from hustle culture. I shared four tips in that episode and in my opinion, from my perspective, they all of these tips are tips that are in the realm of pleasure.
And in that episode, the 4 tips were gratitude, rest, play and making your own rules. Within each of those, I went into more detail about what I actually mean by how you can practice gratitude in a way that will help you break free from hustle culture, so I won’t get into those here.
But I will say that doing something like practicing gratitude on purpose, that is a pleasure practice because you are on purposely finding things in your life that you can feel grateful for. And when you allow yourself to really invite those feelings of gratitude, and the sensations of gratitude in your body, it feels really good.
And it might be very hard at first, but if you stick to it, it’ll get easier over time. You’ll find yourself being able to go there quicker. Kind of like with meditation.
Meditation is ,honestly meditation and breath work, are the first things that I did to help me manage my anxiety. In 2014, I was seeking out yoga classes and like where I can start practicing yoga, because at that time I was just graduated from college with my BFA in fashion design, and I was working in the industry as a pattern maker.
I would basically get like sheets of clients names and their measurements and I would have to pull styles from our current line or past line and pull the patterns and adjust it to fit the client’s measurements. And it was very fun. I’m like a total math nerd. And yeah, I liked it.
But being in the fashion industry, you can only imagine it was not the right environment for me, especially with the nature of the two companies I worked for, which I’m not going to name, and because it was not the right environment for me, I felt so much stress and anxiety. So I was seeking out yoga classes because I heard yoga is good for that.
I will say with yoga and meditation and breath work, it takes a long time because you have to be devoted to doing these practices daily for an extended amount of time to feel long term benefits.
Yes, you will feel good if you do one 20 minute meditation right now and it’s your first time ever meditating. I mean, maybe you’ll feel good. I don’t know who you are, but you’ll feel even better.
And with the topic of anxiety, you’ll be even more equipped to stay in the center of yourself the longer you have been practicing something like meditation, yoga, or breath work. Which honestly, all three of those are a meditation, in my opinion.
Yoga could be seen as a meditation where you are moving. And it is also a breath work practice if you are practicing in a way where you are matching your movements with your breath, which is again, something that is easier to do over time. And breath work is also a meditation in my opinion.
The longer that you take with those kind of practices, the more space you will create between the moment where your body feels something like where, for example, your neck starts tensing up and the space of where the anxiety ridden thoughts start to loop.
And usually the feeling in the body comes first. So if you have time where you have been practicing mindfulness, you will notice the sensation in the body and you will breathe into it and make space for it.
And then the anxiety loop of thoughts won’t ever come. Again, this is something that will come over time. So wherever you are at, that is welcome. And that’s okay, it’s totally fine. Again, there’s nothing here we need to fix.
There’s nothing here that needs to be “healed.” I’m just sharing things that can help you potentially have a better experience in your body. That’s what I’m all about.
Experiencing Pleasure through Whitespace
I know it’s going to sound kind of weird that like I think this is pleasure, but when I explain it, it’ll make sense. One of the first things related to pleasure that I started doing to help me with my anxiety is creating is creating white space in my calendar.
So creating time blocks in my calendar where I’m not doing anything, where there’s no calls, there’s no clients, there’s nothing I’m studying, nothing I’m reading, I’m just being. And maybe I’ll go for a walk, maybe I’ll listen to some music.
I’ve found that the more potent times of white space is where I’m not even listening to music or going for a walk where I’m just like laying or maybe even meditating or just laying down in the middle of my living room floor. I really like to do that.
Another thing to practice whitespace that I didn’t mention in the podcast epsiode, but i’ll write it here is dedicating time where I DO NOT read any books or go through any courses or anyhting like that. This is something I’d usually devote a month or 90 days to, just as a sort of reset and reflection time and I’ve found it SO helpful.
It shuts off my anxious mind because I’m in “doing mode” when I’m reading or learning and taking a break to let everything settle helps me ground and get clear with what is ahead for me. It’s also REALLY potent to do this in the form of taking breaks off of social media.
So that’s a way that I can manage my anxiety through pleasure and something that’s coming up to share in relation to white space, you may or may not resonate with this depending on who is listening. But if you are someone who experiences a menstrual cycle, if you are in a cyclical body that experiences menstruation and you start to track your cycle and you know when you’re ovulating, you know when your luteal phases and all those things.
And besides that, also knowing over time how you typically feel during those phases will help you know when you need more white space. And the reason why I say “over time knowing how YOU feel” is because most places that I’ve seen at least will tell you that you need extra rest while you’re bleeding and that you’ll then that you’re more energetic and able to fill your plate with things when you’re ovulating. And not everyone resonates with that.
I think everyone’s body is different. And I personally like to have white space or more white space around the first two days of my bleed and then like three days before that as well. So right at the end of my inner fall especially because that’s when I’m just like so tired and kind of cranky as well. I don’t want to talk to people at that time of the month, haha.
So giving myself that grace of like I need space, let’s put as little as possible on the schedule. And if there is something pressing that needs to be done, it will be in the afternoon so that the morning can be a type of morning where I get extra sleep, where I can move slowly and not be like launched into my day.
And as someone who anxiety has been like a big, anxiety has been like a big emotion in my past. And if you can relate with that, like I have definitely been someone who spent years of time where I was just launched into my day. As soon as I wake up, it’s like 6am alarm. Just go take a shower and go teach a class. I remember I was teaching barre classes at 6am at one chapter in my life on I think it was Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.
And I think that was my like peak anxiety time of just like wake up and go and like hold space for people. Because also on my schedule at that time, I would teach night classes or have like, I wouldn’t go to bed early enough.
Tied in with this with this tip of white space is also setting boundaries and knowing what things to say no to and knowing like, I would say maybe like putting yourself first on your calendar and choosing your availability for external things before you find out the availability of other people that could be involved and scheduling things from there.
It’s stepping out of this people pleaser kind of behavior where you decide to take something at a super early time because someone else is on a different time zone. And I mean, yes, there can be grace, of course, especially you know with with those of us who experience anxiety, sometimes anxiety comes from putting such rigid rules on ourselves.
And that’s something that, you know, is helpful to be aware of because if you’re like, I will never take calls before 12pm. And there is a day where you have more energy and there is someone that you want to hang out with or client you want to have…You know, there needs to be that that space of being able to shift things.
And that could be hard to do if you are someone who is in the self development space because things like routines and having the same morning routine and you know, this just like the self development space is such a space that it’s a space I’ve been in since 2013.
And it’s a space that from my perspective, at least, is very what’s the right word like forceful and kind of like masculine and it’s very like, “just power on through, just hustle through just no matter what you feel just go go go!!”
So yeah, giving yourself that grace to break your own rules. Okay, so back to our topic of how pleasure has helped me with anxiety.
Managing Anxiety with the Pleasure of Embodiment Practices
Another thing that deepened this layer of leaning into pleasure that really helped me manage my anxiety is doing embodiment practices. And I’ve shared about embodiment practices in previous episodes, I think, and the basic first embodiment practices I was doing is just playing a song and just moving intuitively.
But making sure that when I was moving intuitively I was moving my hips a lot. I was breathing deep. And as I was exhaling, I would let out sound that outsize let out any type of sound that wants to be let out.
And really like enjoying that.
That kind of a breath of letting out a big sigh became something that I do randomly throughout my day now. It’s really helpful for me because I tend to hold a lot of my tension, stress, anxiety in my neck and upper back.
Something about sighing and having that vibration come through in the throat space helps relax those muscles and just feels very releasing to me.
Pleasure from the 5 Senses
The next thing from there was just being introduced to pleasure practices in a way where first of all, I was introduces to this in 2021 and before this time, I’d never heard anyone refer to masturbation as a pleasure practice.
And when it was presented to me as a pleasure practice, something about using those words made it feel more sacred. More intentional. More like, “okay, we’re going to set our space, we’re going to take our time to tickle all five of our senses.” And that’s a really big piece of pleasure, indulging in all your senses.
So with a pleasure practice, it would be first off, very slowed down where I’m breathing deeply into my body, one hand on my heart, one hand on my belly, and just taking a few moments to breathe into ground before doing anything.
And then from there, moving into all sensations. So maybe like taking my fingers and rubbing them across my arms and my hair and my neck. And then from there, moving on to something like sound where I say things out loud to myself or maybe even take some time to tune into the music that I’m playing while I continue to very, very lightly brush my fingertips across my whole body.
And then if my eyes aren’t opened already, I will use the sense of sight by looking at every part of my body and like beaming love to the parts of my body. From there using something like smell and I have this like oil that I like to use and just taking time to smell the oil.
At this time in 2021, I was still using candles and incense. I for my own personal reasons don’t use candles or incense anymore because I came across someone who’s a toxicologist who kind of ruined it for me, which I’m like grateful for, but I’m also like, “AHH! WHY?!” Now I do flowers instead.
So yeah, really indulging in scent and again, checking in the whole time that I’m moving slow, that I’m breathing, that I’m present, that I’m in my body rather than in my head fantasizing.
And then from there moving on to the scent of taste. Two favorite things to use in this type of practice is dark chocolate and I’ll let it melt in my mouth. My other favorite thing to use is blueberries because they’re just like little bursts of flavor and yeah, eating a blueberry just like very, very, very slow.
And yeah, something like that. Like you don’t even have to take your clothes off to have a practice like that and it can help you so much with your anxiety.
Anything that you can do that can help you really tune in to your body because the thing about anxiety is like we’re usually tightening parts of our body or we’re trapped in our head and there are all these thoughts kind of like running the show.
But when we can slow down and relax and besides relaxing parts of our body, just bringing awareness to maybe, again to use the example of being tight in the neck, just bringing awareness that your neck is tight and being like, that’s okay. Welcome. You’re allowed to be here.
Making Space for all that is to be here
Doing something like that was a huge pivotal moment for me. Accepting my anxiety rather than looking at it as something to fix or something to heal, just making space to accept it.
And a really good way to make space to accept your anxiety is when you feel anxious to take a moment to stop and tune into where in your body are you feeling this anxiety?
Where is it showing up?
And when you find the place in your body where you can feel the anxiety, describing it as much as possible, getting more and more clarity on it. So, what’s the texture of it?
What’s the color of it?
What shape is it?
This is work that I do with my 1:1 clients in coaching and from there, sometimes just having that space to stop and to be with it is life changing and is more than enough.
The way you can kind of up-level that is move into a space of, “I accept you, you’re welcome to be here.“(having dialogue with your anxiety)
Another way that pleasure has really helped me with my anxiety is taking space for when I eat to not have my phone with me and to really just BE with my food. I’m not watching a show, I’m not listening to music, I’m just looking at the different colors of my food and the textures of my food.
Maybe I’m having a conversation with whoever I’m with and then I eat even slower because I’m doing more talking than eating usually.
In my opinion, when we can do that to pause and be with our food, I feel like it sends a message to our bodies that your needs matter because what’s on your plate ends up becoming you.
Like the lentil soup you eat ends up becoming an eyeball cell or like an eyelash or ends up being the cells that make up the bones on your left pinky toe. And I think taking the time to really be with the food rather than scarfing it down shows a deep sense of love to your body, shows your body maybe at a subconscious level that your needs matter.
I also do believe that like whatever emotional state we are in while we are eating that there’s the potential that those emotions, and I know I’m getting woo woo here, but I think there’s a potential that those emotions can also be digested along with our food.
Maybe they get infused in our food and I think that affects, I think it totally does affect our digestion and the way we feel because besides the whole like kind of woo woo-ness of like your energies going into your food, just think about like how much less thoroughly you chew your food when you’re not paying attention.
You know, you’re not going to chew everything super thoroughly if you’re in a rush. You’re just going to, you know, swallow it down as fast as you can. That’s my two cents on like how you feel while you’re eating.
DEEP Grounding through a Yoni Egg Practice
Another practice that I started in the end of 2021, but then I really like devoted myself to it in the beginning of 2022 and it REALLY helped ground me…like the deepest sense of grounding I have ever felt to the point where when I realized that the practice got me to that level, I was just like, wow, I had no idea this was possible for me.
I know that this is a tool and a practice that can be a little controversial besides the fact that it’s a sexual practice, but I’ve also seen some like articles where people don’t have good opinions on it, but it’s worked for me.
It’s worked for many other women that I’ve connected with and it’s having a yoni egg practice. And if you’ve never heard of a yoni egg before, because I honestly didn’t know what they were until a few years ago, it’s an egg shaped, usually it’ll be like an egg shaped stone made out of jade.
But I personally will never put crystals in my body because crystals have micro cracks and crystals break. And yeah, those are my thoughts on putting crystals in your body. I have strong thoughts on that but I’m holding myself back because that might be a future episode or post.
Anyways, I use a egg shaped borosilicate glass and you can get it with a drill hole through it and you can put like an unscented, unwaxed floss through that hole so that you can be able to pull the yoni egg out or you can get it without a hole.
What I’ve found is over time, when you are devoted to this practice, like there comes a time where you don’t need the floss because you just have so much more awareness of all of your muscles and you’re able to successfully get the egg out without having any anxiety of it staying in your body forever.
The basics of a yoni egg practice is you are taking time to again, slow down with your body and connect with your pussy and slow everything down and then you can take your egg and you can set any intentions into the egg.
You can infuse your egg with certain energies of self love if that’s what resonates for you. And you would just insert it in your body very slowly. Then you can do various different things and if this is something you want to learn more about, this podcast (or blog post) is not here to teach you how to do that, but I just want to give a little idea so you know what I was doing.
There are different things where you like squeeze certain muscles or you go into like a bridge pose and you squeeze for a couple seconds and then you lower your hips down and open your knees to butterfly pose and just like relax. And there are different movements that you do.
What happened for me over time was at first like I didn’t feel anything and over time there was more sensitivity and over time there was more capacity for that type of work because it honestly was triggering for me to be in a space where I was you know showing up to touch myself on the regular because that was something that I as a child received the message that “that’s a bad thing to do. It’s a dirty thing to do.”
This practice really helped transform my opinions and my views and my perspective on what sexuality is in the first place and on what it means to be a person that owns a vulva and a womb and ovaries and what it means to be a person who is in an estrogen based body and it’s just I have chills all over my body right now as I share this but eventually over time I would say I’m just honestly guessing that maybe it took six months to the point where I would just notice my womb space throughout the day.
So when I was interviewing podcast guests like I would just like notice like I could feel my womb right now as I talk or there were even some episodes like which… whoa that is so funny, the top episode that has the most listens according to my back end analytics is an episode where I had a yoni egg in my body!
The whole time and having it in my body was that extra awareness of like “hey here’s your womb, here is your vaginal canal, here is your your center, be aware of this as you talk“. I feel like it helped me come from this super grounded space in that episode. It’s the one with Hayley Winter and the episode is about finding your intuition.
And… yeah, I just think it’s funny that that episode where I was wearing a yoni egg in my body is one of the highest listened to so far as of the time of this recording on it is August 21st 2023 for those of you that are in the future.
So from there from doing the yoni egg practices it opened me up to doing more pleasure practices with things that are bigger than a yoni egg. And continuing to prioritize time with myself where I could essentially connect with my body. Where I could be my own lover.
I got into breast massage and then eventually launched my breast massage course Heart Magick which I’ll link in the show notes in case you like breast massage practice really is a good way to slow down to drop into sensation and to be able to manage your anxiety so I’ll include that in the show notes for you if that’s something you are called to. (here’s the link if you’re reading the blog)
Breaking constraining rules
Another way I brought in more pleasure and found it helped me manage anxiety is by kind of breaking these rules that I’d put on myself as someone that works from home. By that I mean little things like giving myself the space to wear what felt very pleasurable and what felt sexy while I work on my podcast or answer emails.
If I’m at home and I have the house to myself and my windows are closed I could just wear a robe and have the robe open while I’m at my computer like I don’t need to be wearing pants or anything constricting at home.
You can also look at, if you’re in charge of your own schedule: What rules are you putting on yourself of what time you “should” work? Who says you have to take clients/meetings/calls in the mornings? Sometimes we’re so conditioned to do this coming from working environments that do this before starting your own business.
(This kind of goes back to the tip about whitespace I shared earlier.)
Having FUN with your Inner Child (and teenager)
Another really big piece with inviting in more pleasure and how it’s helped me manage my anxiety is tuning into my inner child and asking her what she would like to do just for the pure fun of it.
This is kind of related to the previous solo episode I shared about breaking free from hustle culture. One of the tips there was play. I feel like we play so much as kids and when we’re adults, we think that playing is just for kids.
Also we think that when you’re doing something like painting for example like we think we need to monetize everything. Or that’s at least what I fall into, maybe I’m projecting.
Whenever I would do something creative and I was like oh, can I sell this on Etsy or “Can this graphic design be a post for my business?”
My inner child is very creative (yours most likely is too!!) and she likes to create just for the fun of it. I’ve
also been connecting with my inner teenager and doing things that I really loved as a teenager again just for the fun of it and really like as you do it really being present.
Closing Thoughts on Pleasure
Pleasure really comes down to being present and tuning into your body’s sensations. ALL of the sensations.
What are you hearing? What are you tasting? What are you smelling? What textures are you feeling? How are you feeling internally?
All of those things and really basking in all of it. Even the emotions that society likes to label as “bad”. I believe all emotions are sacred and they’re all valid and they’re all welcome. I think I said this in the beginning but when you have anxiety it’s your body telling you like hey this isn’t working!
So something that could be helpful to step into is noticing those sensations. Noticing those feelings and saying thank you to them because all they’re doing is trying to get you to equilibrium. They’re most times the things that show up in our bodies as contractions or thought patterns and things that are constantly showing up as these patterns in our life.
They’re there for a reason otherwise they wouldn’t be there and most often times they are there because in the past they served you they kept you safe in some way and they were just trying to get you what you wanted at the time. Maybe now that tactic or way of being is actually not helping you get what you want so maybe it’s time to direct that energy somewhere else.
And, again really prefacing that there’s nothing here to be fixed or healed like it really a lot comes from noticing the anxiety and allowing it space to be.
I know that can like be probably annoying advice especially when you’re having if you’re having a really really hard time. If that’s you, please see a mental health professional please go get help because that is valid too and that is sacred too like sometimes we need those interventions.
Sometimes some of us need medications–there’s so many resources out here these days for managing our anxiety that people and for example the generation of music I’ve been listening to lately the late 1960s they did not have this many resources available to this many people.
There are some things that we practice for anxiety that are ancient practices but because of the state of the world now where ideas are spreading faster than ever. More people know about it, more people have access to it.
You could look up a meditation on YouTube right now and do one for free. You could look up a sound bath right now on YouTube and do it for free. We’re just so it’s just such an abundant time to live in and we’re just so lucky and I feel like now I’m ranting and getting off topic.
Thank you again for being here I hope the post of how I use pleasure to manage anxiety was helpful to you. If you’d like to explore this topic deeper within a 1:1 coaching space, click here for the details of my 1:1 work.
Hey! I'm Cilia
Self Love Mentor & Embodiment Guide
I help women ground, feel, & express freely through mindfulness, compassion, and sacred ritual so that they can feel confident, fulfilled, and HAWT!